Quick Edits in Photoshop Elements

July 14, 2015

Quick Edits in Photoshop Elements

The Quick Edit Mode in Photoshop Elements makes correcting common photo problems fast and easy. The Quick Edit tools let you adjust the color, brightness and contrast in your photos and sharpen them up a bit too, all in just a few clicks.

Let's take a look at how the Quick Edit mode works.

Accessing the Quick Edit Mode

The Quick Edit mode is available from the Editor workspace. So to start, open the photos that you want to work on in the Editor.

You can do this in a couple of ways:

From the Organizer

You can open the photos by selecting them while in the Elements Organizer and then clicking on the Editor button found in the Taskbar at the bottom of the interface. This will open the selected photos in the Editor workspace.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

Directly from the Editor

Or you can open your photos directly from within the Elements Editor by choosing File>Open from the top Menu bar. From there, navigate to and select the files that you want to open.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

If you are working on a Mac, here's a handy hint. You can use the Mac Quick Look feature to preview a file before opening it into the Photoshop Elements Editor. As you are navigating to find the image you want to open, select a file by single clicking on it and then hit the space bar. The selected file will appear in a large preview window, allowing you to get a good look at the image before opening it.

Once in the Elements Editor, you will see your opened photos displayed as thumbnails spread out across the Photo bin at the bottom of the workspace. So as you can see in the screen shot below, I have three images open.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

To edit any of these photos, double-click on the thumbnail inside the photo bin to open the image in the Active Image Area.

By the way, if you don't see the bin, click the Photo bin icon in the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen.

Now, finally, to open the Quick Edit workspace, click on the Quick tab found at the top of the interface.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

The Quick Edit Toolbox

Once in Quick Edit workspace, you'll see the Toolbox along the left-hand side of the interface. It's a reduced Toolbox, holding significantly fewer icons than what would show with the full Editor.

 

using quick edit in photoshop elements

As with any of the workspaces in the Photoshop Elements Editor, as soon as you select a tool from the Toolbox, the Tool Options bar will appear at the bottom of the screen, replacing the Photo bin that we saw above. But you can always return to the photo bin by clicking on its icon in the Taskbar at the bottom edge of the interface.

For what we'll be doing here, the only tools you may need to use are the Zoom Tool and the Hand Tool.

The Zoom Tool

The Zoom tool allows you to change the magnification level to zoom in or out of a photo.

To use the Zoom tool, click on the icon in the Toolbox. When you do, you will see options appear in the Tool Options bar at the bottom of the workspace.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

There are a number of ways to zoom in and out in Photoshop Elements

  • Click either the plus or minus signed tool in the Tool Options bar…
    using quick edit in photoshop elements
    …and then click in the area of the photo that you want to zoom in or out of. Click again to further increase or decrease the magnification level.
  • To zoom in on a specific area, select the Zoom In button (the Zoom tool icon that shows a plus sign) in the Options bar and drag the Zoom tool over the area of the image to create a dashed selection outline. The selected area will magnify to fill the entire Active Image Area.
  • Zoom in and out by moving the Zoom slider found both in the Options bar and above the Active Image Area. Or, instead of using the slider, type in the magnification level you want in the text box to the right of either of these sliders.
    using quick edit in photoshop elements
  • Use the preset buttons in the Tool Options bar to set zoom level to 1:1, Fit Screen, Fill screen and Print Size.
    using quick edit in photoshop elements
  • To zoom an image to 100%, double-click the Zoom tool icon in the Toolbox.
  • To change the zoom level of an image so that it fits to the screen, double-click the Hand tool icon in the Toolbox.
  • Here's an especially handy tip for changing the zoom level and it's my favorite. You can use your mouse's scroll wheel to zoom in and out by holding down the Alt as you roll the wheel.
  • Use Keyboard Shortcuts to change the zoom level:
    • Ctrl+0 on a PC/CMD+0 on a Mac will zoom the image to fit the screen.
    • Ctrl++ on a PC/CMD++ on a Mac will zoom in on the image.
    • Ctrl+- on a PC/CMD+- on a Mac will zoom out.

The Hand Tool

The Hand Tool allows you to move the image around on the screen when the photo extends beyond the edges of the Active Image Area. So you will typically use the Hand tool to change the area of the image that you are seeing on the screen when you are zoomed in closely on your image.

To use the Hand tool tool, click on the icon in the Toolbox. When you do, you will see Zoom options appear in the Tool Options bar at the bottom of the workspace.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

To then move the image using the Hand tool, just click on the image and drag with the tool to reposition the photo on the screen.

Here are some a few tips for moving around an image.

  • This is a really handy keyboard shortcut to using the Hand tool that you will want to remember. You can access the Hand tool temporarily, regardless of what tool you currently have selected, by pressing and holding the space bar. When you do this, your mouse pointer will change to the Hand tool and you will able to grab and drag your photo around to reposition it. When you release the space bar, you can continue using the tool that you have selected.
  • You can also move around your image using your mouse's scroll wheel. Roll the wheel to move your photo up and down. Hold the Ctrl key of a PC or the CMD key on a Mac while rolling the mouse wheel to move the image right and left.

The Quick Edit Adjustments Panel

The Adjustments panel is positioned as a column on the right of the Quick Edit workspace. This is where you will find tools to quickly correct exposure and lighting, color and sharpness of an image.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

If the Adjustments panel isn't there, click the Adjustments button in the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen to bring it up.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

There are five sections contained within the Adjustments panel:

Smart Fix

Smart Fix is the one-stop-shop of photo editing. It's a single adjustment that is intended to correct lighting, color and contrast issues all at once. Smart Fix tries to balance out the highlights and shadows of your image while correcting overall color balance and removing any colorcasts that may exist.

Exposure

The Exposure section allows you to modify an image's overall exposure.

Lighting

The Lighting Adjustment contains controls for Levels and Contrast, which lets you modify and correct the amount of brightness in the light and dark areas of a photo.

Color

The Color Adjustment giving you control over Saturation, Hue and Vibrance, allowing you to vary the amount of color in your photo. This is the control that you would use to kick up the colors of an image that appear to be especially dull, muted or overly grey.

Balance

The Balance section gives you access to two controls—Temperature and Tint—that together allow for correcting and adjusting color balance and removing colorcasts from a photo. This section contains the controls you need to fix the white balance of an image.

Sharpen

The Sharpen Adjustment makes a photo appear to have better focus by increasing the contrast along the edges of objects in the image. I say 'appear' because there is no real way to truly correct focus after the fact. But this adjustment can help the look of an image that is a bit too soft. Use it sparingly because overuse can give a photo a funky, unnatural look and also be sure to use this adjustment last because it can have an unpredictable effect when used before the other editing tools.

If you've been using the Elements Organizer, you may notice that the Adjustments panel here in the Quick Editor is very similar to Instant Fix found in the Organizer:

using quick edit in photoshop elements

But as similar as these appear, there's a big difference between the editing options available in the Adjustments panel and those available in Instant Fix. This difference is the reason I recommend that you forgo Instant Fix and instead make your basic edits in the Quick Fix Editor. The difference is that the edits available in the Quick Fix Editor have controls that allow you to tweak, fine-tune, and customize the adjustment to your liking. That's not the case for the edits in Instant fix.

To access these controls, click just about anywhere on one of Adjustment section headings and a drop down box will open, revealing the controls for that adjustment.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

In the image above, you can see the controls available for Smart Fix. The controls for this Adjustment include a slider that allows you to tweak the amount of the adjustment, a set of thumbnail that allows you to choose from a number of preset adjustment levels and an Auto option that lets the software decide on the adjustment level for you.

Not all of the sections of the Adjustments Panel have all three of these controls. For example, as we just saw, Smart Fix has all three controls. But the Exposure Adjustment only has a slider and thumbnails presets. There's no Auto button for the Exposure Adjustment.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

You can use any combination of the available controls to edit the photo to your liking. I sometimes like to start with Auto just to see what it does and tweak the results from there. I might then use the slider to control the strength of the adjustment, backing off or enhancing the effect. Or I might use the thumbnails to fine-tune the adjustment. Each thumbnail corresponds to a preset level of the adjustment and that matches up to a position on the strength slider. So if you hover your mouse over any of the thumbnails, you'll see the slider move to show that preset adjustment level on the slider and you'll see the adjustment applied to your photo.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

Once you've finished working within one of the Adjustment sections, you can move immediately on to another section. The adjustments from the different sections are cumulative.

If you decide that you don't like what you've done within any of the Adjustment sections, you can reset that particular adjustment by clicking on the thumbnail that shows a curved arrow.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

If, instead, you decide that you want to undo all of the Quick Edit adjustments that you've made to an image and reset the photo back to it's original state, click on the curved arrow found at the top of the Adjustments Panel.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

In terms of a step-by-step workflow, I usually pretty much work though the different adjustments in the order they appear. I'll start by trying Smart Fix and if I like that, I'm done. If I don't like it the effect of the Smart fix—which is usually the case—I'll undo that adjustment and then start working through the remaining adjustments as needed.

At each step along the way, you can see your photo before and after, side-by-side by changing the view using the drop down box found at the top left of the Active Image Area.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

An Example

We've talked a lot about how to use the Quick Edit workspace to fix common photo problems. Now let's see it in action as we work through an example.

I have a photo opened in the Quick Edit workspace.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

I like the composition of the image, but the picture is a bit on the dull side. It's somewhat dark and the colors are lackluster and uninteresting. So my objective in the editing process is to brighten it up and bring out some color. Here we go.

First Try Smart Fix

The first thing I'll try is Smart Fix.

But when I try the Auto option under Smart Fix, there's no effect at all and if I try any of the thumbnails or the slider, my photo gets darker.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

That's not what I want.

So I'll undo the Smart Fix adjustment by clicking on the thumbnail with the curved arrow in it and I'll move on to try the other adjustments.

Exposure Adjustment

When I look at my image, I can see that the exposure needs a bit of tweaking since the white flower petals look a bit gray and the yellow of the flower center is dull. But as you see, the light areas behind the flowers are already blown out. So, I'll need to trend lightly here.

With that in mind, I'll increase the exposure slightly to .2 on the slider.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

The effect is subtle but I like it.

Lighting Adjustment

To bring out the areas of the flower that are grayish and dull, I’ll work in the Shadows tab of the Lighting Adjustment section. After a bit of trial and error, I've decided to use the thumbnail on the far left of the bottom row. The adjustment value for this is 75.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

Wow! That makes a big difference, brightening up the whole image and giving it a lighter and softer look.

Color Adjustment

In the Color Adjustment section, I'll work with the Vibrance controls to kick up the green colors a bit. I'll select the thumbnail at the bottom left of the grid (50 on the slider).

using quick edit in photoshop elements

Balance Adjustment

Using the Balance Adjustment, I'll tweak the tint slightly (-20 on the slider) to give it some green.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

Sharpen Adjustment

Finally, I'll do a small amount of sharpening. After a little bit of playing around, I've decided to use the thumbnail on the far right of the top row, with a slider value of 125.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

That's it. I'm done.

Let's look at our before and after photos.

using quick edit in photoshop elements

Before

using quick edit in photoshop elements

After

I like it!

For Further Reading…

How to Fine Tune Your Photos for Big Results with Photoshop Elements 12

Adobe Photoshop Elements Tools and Shortcuts of the Quick Mode Variety




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